LINCOLN PARISH, La. (05/21/20) — A paramedic from Lincoln Parish is recovering from the coronavirus and believes the convalescent plasma therapy was what helped him with his speedy recovery.
Michael Penix has been working with Pafford Emergency Medical Services in Farmerville of Union Parish for 12 years. He never thought he would be needing some saving of his own.
“Yes I did,” Penix said. “I had some really good people on my side.”
Penix began experiencing symptoms on May 4. He was overcome with a fever that spiked to 102 while at work. His positive test results came back mid-week. That’s when he began to quarantine at home.
His symptoms ranged from heavy coughs, severe headaches and a high fever. The pain became so unbearable that he could hardly sleep at night. He then felt the urge to go to the local emergency room.
“The cough was just terrible,” he said. “After they did the assessment, they decided to send me to a bigger hospital than what they were.”
He was transported by Pafford Air Medical to Willis Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport. Penix was able to get there for initial treatments and avoid being put on a ventilator.
As a 57 year old, who has had no health complications, he never became fearful of a possible negative outcome.
“I knew that I was still able to function. I didn’t feel like I was declining to the point of death or anything,” he said. “I concerned it could get worse before it could get stopped.”
While receiving care at Willis Knighton, he was given hydroxychloroquine as a treatment in addition to others. Although, he believes the convalescent plasma therapy is what really helped him with his recovery process. He received the plasma on May 10.
“The doctors and nurses were really truly amazed at how well and how quickly it did work,” he said. “It’s relatively quick and simple administration. They administered it through an IV. That was at about 11 p.m. Sunday night and by mid-afternoon Monday we were already seeing improvements.”
FDA has given emergency use authorization to test convalescent plasma therapy as a treatment for the coronavirus infection.
Willis Knighton is one of over 2,000 medical centers across the country that is testing this protocol under guidance from The Mayo Clinic. Approximately 40 patients receiving care at the hospital have been given plasma.
Director of Children’s Service at Willis Knighton Health System, Dr. Jospeh Boccihini, says it’s difficult to determine whether convalescent plasma is effective because patients are receiving several types of therapies to improve their health.
“We’ll need evidence from a larger number of patients across the country before we can say it’s effective,” Dr. Boccihini said. “Each patient will be followed up to 30 days and we report the outcome of those patients to the Mayo Clinic Study Site. Overtime we will know the effectiveness of this treatment.”
Dr. Boccihini said studies from the clinic shows that this treatment is safe and that there are no negative results from using this kind of therapy.
“In the first 24-48 hours after receiving the plasma, may be what will show as a benefit to these patients,” he said.
“Early treatment is likely to be better. We are trying to enroll patients when they meet the criteria included in the study. The sicker the patient is the less likely you’ll see an effect but we certainly want to use this with any patient no matter how sick they are.”
The major requirements include being admitted to the hospital and experiencing some respiratory distress.
Participating hospitals have already made the necessary arrangement with the May Clinic to be a part of the national study. However, individual physicians can apply to use this therapy on their patients.
While it’s still being experimented and because there haven’t been negative effects to the treatments, doctors are asking those who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma.
Penix strongly believes that was the difference maker for him. The people who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies the body uses to fight off infections.
“If you have this and you’re able to donate convalescent blood plasma please do. It may not have been what saved my life but it definitely made the recuperation and the bounce back from the worst parts of this a lot better,” he said.
“The more they have on hand, the easier and the quicker they can get it to these people that really do need it.”
If you’ve had COVID-19 and recovered from it, consider donating blood to your local Lifeshare Blood Center.